E-Cadherin Is Important for Meibomian Gland Function as Revealed by a New Human ex Vivo Slice Culture Model.


Department of Vegetative Anatomy, Institute of Anatomy, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Munich. Electronic address: [Email]


Meibomian glands within the eyelid are important for the maintenance of the integrity and health of the ocular surface. Patients with the blistering skin disease pemphigus vulgaris (PV), which is caused by autoantibodies against desmosomal cadherins, often have dry eye disease. Therefore, we studied the regulation of cell cohesion in human meibomian gland epithelial cells (HMGECs). During serum-induced differentiation for 1 to 6 days, HMGECs drastically enhanced intercellular cohesion, whereas lipid production did not change. The expression profiles of the desmosomal PV antigens desmoglein (Dsg) 3 and 1 but not of the adherens junction component E-cadherin (Ecad) was dependent on the presence of serum. Surprisingly, after 1 day but not after 6 days of serum-induced differentiation, an inhibitory antibody against Ecad drastically reduced intercellular cohesion and blocked lipid production of HMGECs. In contrast, antibodies against desmosomal cadherins, including human and mouse pemphigus autoantibodies, had no effect on monolayer integrity and lipid production. Because lipid production was unaltered in meibomian glands from Dsg3-deficient mice, we established an ex vivo slice culture model of human eyelids to allow studies in a more physiologic environment. Here, the inhibitory antibody against Ecad but not a Dsg3-specific PV antibody interfered with stimulated lipid production. Together, these data demonstrate that cell cohesion is maintained differently in meibomian gland cells and indicate that Ecad is important for meibomian gland function.